Joe Caron’s painkiller habit destroyed his business and drove away his fiancee.

But after reading this week about so many others who still are trapped in addiction, he feels like one of the fortunate ones.

The North Yarmouth resident took his last dose of the treatment drug Suboxone two months ago. Now he wants to start a local support group.

“I didn’t realize how bad it still is,” said Caron, who is 26. “I can tell them and give them some hope.”

A weeklong MaineToday Media series on painkiller addiction stirred a mix of reactions, especially among readers who have been directly touched by addiction.

Recovering addicts such as Caron, as well as parents, relatives and friends of addicts, said they were grateful to see attention focused on a problem they have been living through.

Providers of addiction treatment said they’re hopeful that the attention will lead more people to seek help.

Doctors and pain patients said they hope the articles and discussions will lead to better ways of treating pain and more help for physicians who are expected to be the gatekeepers, without training or support.

And some who rely on the medications to manage chronic illness and pain said they worry that the focus on abuse and addiction will make even more doctors suspicious of them and reluctant to treat them.

Some of the articles have been circulated by groups such as the American Society of Addiction Medicine and by state and local officials in Maine.

An article Tuesday that focused on Maine babies born into opiate withdrawal triggered inquiries from national media.

“The maternal one struck a chord,” said Mark Publicker, an addiction specialist at the Mercy Recovery Center in Westbrook.

Publicker got calls from USA Today and “Anderson Cooper 360,” a CNN program, seeking information about mothers and babies. He was checking with patients to ask if they were willing to be interviewed.

Eric Haram, president of the Maine Association of Substance Abuse Providers, said he’s hopeful that policymakers are committed to responding.

“With all the bipartisan support, we want to be able to work together (and) help guide policy that actually realizes a return on investment,” Haram said. Expanding treatment options is less expensive than continuing to send addicts to prison at a cost of $45,000 per year per prisoner, he said.

McAuley Residence in Portland hopes to be able to expand its services to help meet the growing demand for treatment and support. The agency provides six apartments to women who deal with addiction and other crises, and their children.

“We often have two referrals a day and just cannot even begin to respond to the need,” said program director Melissa Skahan.

McAuley Residence hopes to provide more housing in the future and in the meantime is providing what support it can.

Bob Wing of Augusta said he hopes the attention will lead to an entirely new treatment system.

Wing has a relative who has been struggling with addiction for 10 years and has been through a hospital detox program as many as four times in a year. After each detox, the relative has to go on a waiting list for treatment.

“By the time their name comes up, they can’t get in because they’ve been using again,” Wing said. So they go back to detox. “It’s a revolving door. It’s costing taxpayers millions of dollars, and it’s not saving these young kids’ lives.”

Sharon Huntington of Winslow said she hopes the publicity will lead to more options for treating pain.

Huntington was in a car accident two years ago that left her in chronic pain and unable to work. She lost her job as a medical assistant and got health insurance through MaineCare.

“MaineCare won’t pay for (physical therapy), but they don’t mind your prescriptions of morphine and oxycodone,” she said.

She ended up physically dependent on the pills. “I was just dying in the couch.”

She eventually stopped taking the pills, detoxed in a hospital emergency department and is trying to manage her pain through relaxation and other techniques.

“MaineCare calls the shots,” she said. “I just think the system is messed up.”

Dr. Peter Bridgman, a neurologist in Brunswick, said it’s common for pain patients to feel that they are treated as drug-seeking addicts.

“You have to prove your innocence when you are taking narcotics,” he said.

Bridgman wishes the attention could lead to a network of publicly financed pain clinics, so physicians could have help separating the real pain patients from abusers.

“There’s a lot of barriers to physicians getting second opinions,” he said.

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at: [email protected]